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Plotting A New Course – A Film with Flip Pallot

In this uncertain year that 2020 has been, we check in with TFO National Advisor Flip Pallot down in the deep woods near his home in South Florida.

Flip Pallot has been apart of the TFO family as a National Advisor since 2006.

Flip was born and raised in South Florida. An avid outdoorsman for as long as he could remember, Flip began his career as a banker, for “way too long” according to him. After finding the courage to leave the corporate world, Flip began his second career as a fishing and hunting guide. After 12 years Flip moved to television producing and bringing his life’s fishing travels to the small screen for us to enjoy. He is best known for bringing us the Walkers Cay Chronicles, which aired for 16 seasons on ESPN and as a founder of Hell’s Bay Boatworks.

Flip’s keen sense for storytelling and bringing to life the best part of fishing adventures has continued with teaching instructional classes and writing books on fly fishing.

Flip helped us design the Mangrove series of fly rods, and last year, helped us in creating one of our most popular fly rods – the Axiom ll-X (also seen in this video).

You can find out more about Flip here:

http://www.flippallot.com

https://www.facebook.com/flippallot

https://www.instagram.com/flippallot/

 

 

More Down Under Than Down Under – A Trip Of A Lifetime by Jason Randall

About as low as you can go short of Antarctica, Cape Horn, Chile overlooks the bottom of the world. Yes, even further south than Australia and Tasmania. I never realized just how far it was until we finished the fourth plane ride and nearly twenty-eight hours of travel. The planes grew smaller with each successive flight and landed at smaller, more remote and less populated airports. In my book, that’s a good way to know you’re going someplace special. The final stop was little more than an asphalt airstrip.

Some clues that that we weren’t in Kansas anymore greeted us upon arrival; the obvious language difference, a few cultural changes and the fact that southerly winds brought cold air which blasted us as we deplaned. Other dissimilarities came as welcome surprises over the coming days as we ventured into a totally unique environment. One delightful discovery; the night sky looked different. A lot different. You could see the Southern Cross.

Our group of nine intrepid travelers included Jo, my wife, proficient angler and our groups photographer, our son, Evan, and good friends, Dan Pesavento, Stan Diment, Dick and Danny Gebhart, Dean Williams and Sara Lyle, all looking forward to a week at the end of the world and the opportunity to helicopter into some of the most remote rivers imaginable to fish for giant brook trout, sea run and resident brown trout. We’d been excited for this trip for the two years we’d been planning it.

Rafael Gonzales, the manager of Lakutaia Lodge, and two guides, both named Felipe, met us in Punta Arenas and flew the final leg to Navarrino Island and welcomed us to the luxurious lodge. We gathered together for evening cocktails to enjoy Sebastian tending bar, serving Pisco Sours, the local favorite drink that to me, seemed one part pina colada, one part whiskey sour and one part baseball bat that would sneak up and smack you in the head after the third one.

The following morning, the helicopter rose from a self inflicted whirlwind of churning leaves and dust that would remove the hats of those who watched and awaited their turn in the air taxi. It touched down on the shores of a different river each day and deposited groups of three anglers and a guide who scuttled beneath the turning blades and then waved as the pilot lifted off to fly back to the lodge in order to ferry the next group to their river.

By the second day, we’d all taken a deep, relaxing breath- more of a sigh actually, and settled into the lifestyle of gourmet food, fine drink, evening conversations and a new place to fish each day. It’s a joy to watch each person unwind the knots that daily life so often binds around us and settle into their own harmony and rhythm. For some, it meant a half hour nap after lunch by the stream. For others, just a quiet midmorning respite at the waters edge just to take in the moment. Danny and Evan, being the younger of our group, were also the most hard core anglers. While many of the rest of us were leaning or napping against the tree, these two were back on the water catching fish.

Streamers produced in the early morning hours. The six weight Axiom ll-X excelled at casting small streamers to bank-side lies. Charlie Craven’s Double Gonna elicited some voracious strikes. Evan switched to a Mr. Hankey, a simple mouse pattern in the late afternoons on his five weight Axiom ll with exciting success. One morning, Felipe Ignacio Kovacic tried his hand an Euronymphing with TFO’s soon-to-be-released nymphing rod- the Stealth. Fortunately, I had a prototype with me and we had a blast together. Each night, Sebastian met us in the wader room after the helicopter ride back to the lodge with Pisco Sours and a full tray of appetizers.

I don’t remember who caught the largest fish; I know it wasn’t me. Maybe its was Stan, or possibly Dean. Sara caught more fish than she ever had before. It was special to see Dick and his son Danny fish together. My favorite memory with Dan was huddled behind a sparse clump of bushes waiting out a snow squall. Evan and Jo caught the largest brook trouts of their lives.

Of course, the week ended too soon as we gathered for a festive barbecue on the final night, complete with flayed lamb over a wood fire and an assortment of tasty local appetizers. And of course, Sebastian manning the bar. We celebrated new friends and old friends joined by our common passion.

If you ever get the chance to go to Lakutaia Lodge in the southern most part of Chile- don’t miss it. You’ll make memories of a lifetime, see a remote and beautiful part of the world, and a lot of Patagonia waders and TFO rods and reels- the workhorses of the lodge. Have fun, but of course, beware of that third Pisco Sour.

 

Blog post written by TFO National Advisor Jason Randall and photos provided by Jo Randall.

 

Check Out The Winner & Finalists of the TFO Photo Contest!

That’s a wrap for our first ever TFO Photo Contest! Over the past few weeks we received around 500 entries, and we loved seeing so many anglers enjoying TFO gear on their favorite waters.

This Monday, our team selected our Top Six photos for a public vote to help select the winner of the $1000 in TFO gear.

After almost 1,000 votes, we had a stand out winner – John McCarthy and his shot of the Inshore spinning rod! Second place was Brandon Genova’s shot of the Tactical Elite Bass, but not far behind was Adam Koontz’s shot of the Finesse Trout.

Congrats to all the photographers who made the finals! Check out the poll standing below, as well as stories from each of the finalist photographers about each of their finalist submissions!

 

1st Place – John McCarthy – Inshore 

The picture was taken by the Stonebridge in Onset, MA right by my house. The bigger stripers had just started coming in so I figured I’d throw a few casts before I went to work.

What attracted me to the TFO Inshore Mag XH was the versatility the rod had to offer. It just looked like a lot of fun, and it is!!!

Find out more about the Inshore here!


2nd Place – Brandon Genova – Tactical Elite Bass

This shot was taken at Barr Lake State Park here in Colorado. The clouds and sky that day were amazing. My buddy and I were bass fishing that day. Our first time at this location actually. The rod I had just purchased was this TFO Tactical Elite Bass 7-5 H I believe. I’ve been fishing TFO rods going on for 6 years now.

Being a tournament angler, I’m hard on my gear. I’ve found that TFO rods are by far the most durable, and the sensitivity is unbelievable.

When I started using them, I actually had to take time adjust to them versus my previous rods. They were so sensitive I was actually setting the hook too early!

Find out more about the Tactical Elite Bass here!

3rd Place – Adam Koontz – Finesse Trout

During this shot, I was in Northern New Jersey casting small dries for brookies on one of the many native brook trout streams.

I like the TFO Trout Finesse for its ability to handle delicate presentations and for its sensitivity. There are days that you’re not out searching for a fish of a lifetime, and this rod handles small streams and brooks perfectly!

Find out more about the Trout Finesse & Glass here!

4th Place – Robert Ledezma – Axiom ll 8wt w/ Streamers

This shot was taken on the banks of the Henry’s Fork near Ashton, Idaho. I was after big brown trout looking for a big meal. This is actually the river where I first started fly fishing many years ago so it’s a special place for me. Some of my biggest fish and favorite memories have been here.

A lot has changed since I started fly fishing and I’ve gone through a lot of different rods and gear. I’m not entirely sure when or how this happened but the Axiom II has easily become my go-to rod. There’s just something about rigging this rod up with a big streamer that feels right. We’ve gone through a lot of battles together and it has never let me down. I can trust the rod to do its part as I can only try to do mine.

No matter what adventure I go on the Axiom II always comes with me!

Find out more about the Axiom ll here!

5th Place – Aubrey Breed – Mangrove & Cutthroat

The shot was taken on Yellowstone Lake in the Yellowstone National Park fishing for cutthroat trout with streamers! I absolutely love the versatility of the Mangrove!

It’s great for chucking meaty streamers, and also works well in saltwater. It’s got a really smooth action and makes for great long casts!

Find out more about the Mangrove here!

 

6th Place – Mark Kolanowski – Axiom ll Meets Striped Bass

My image of the Axiom II rod and Striped Bass was made in Texas on the Brazos River below the Morris Sheppard Dam which forms Possum Kingdom Lake above it. When the flows are right, the fishing for Striped and White Bass can be very good! This particular fish was caught by my good friend and fishing buddy Craig Rucker on a pink, purple, and white Lunch Money streamer.

I actually do not own this Axiom II rod – Although I do own 7 TFO fly rods in my quiver from a 3wt Finesse to an 8wt BVK. Craig did let me make a few casts with his new 10wt Axiom II. He had gotten it for an upcoming trip we were taking to Alaska and wanted to give it a try on our local river. It proved to be a great choice. The Brazos River Striped Bass we were targeting like big weighted streamers.  Long casts are needed to get the flies up towards the dam and bigger flows where the Stripers roam in search of shad.

The Axiom II had the backbone and power to deliver the big flies into the wind that is ever present in Texas. The swing weight was comfortable even on a big 10wt rod . The power in the butt section was there to keep a hooked fish out of the underwater boulder field, stiff current, and into the net!

Nice rod ! It’s the next one I’ll be adding to my TFO collection.

Find out more about the Axiom ll here!

THANK YOU to ALL those who submitted their photos to the first ever TFO Photo Contest. As difficult as it was to narrow down to our Top Six, it was such a joy to see how everyone enjoys using their TFO gear and we look forward to seeing more photos down the road.

Keep taking those TFO photos and stay tuned for more giveaways and contests down the rod!

#tforods #fishtheoriginal

 

TFO Photo Contest Finalists Have Been Chosen!

Thank you to all the entrants of the our first ever TFO Photo Contest!

We received around 500 entries and as hard as it was to narrow down to our Top Six, we loved seeing so many anglers enjoying TFO gear on their favorite waters!

Help us pick the winner of the $1,000 in TFO gear by voting below on your favorite entry.

Voting ends this Thursday at Midnight EST. We’ll announce the winner on Friday at 12pm EST.

Thank you to all who entered! Stay tuned for more giveaways and contests in 2020.

 

Photo #1 by John McCarthy

TFO Inshore 

Photo #2 by Brandon Genova

Tactical Elite Bass

Photo #3 by Robert Ledezma

Axiom ll

Photo #4 by Mark Kolanowski

Axiom ll 

Photo #5 by Aubrey Breed

Mangrove

Photo #6 by Adam Koontz

Finesse Trout

Vote Here!

Who do you feel is the TFO 2020 Photo Contest winner?

TFO Announces 2021 Fly Category Products

This week, Temple Fork Outfitters announced three new additions to the TFO family of fly rods: the Stealth, the Blue Ribbon, and the LK Legacy. These three new rod series will be released in September 2020. Look for more details as we near the launch, but in the meantime, here’s a quick glimpse!

Stealth Fly Rod Series

Euro nymphing is one of the most talked about–and effective– techniques for trout anglers, and we’ve used all the information shared to us by our dealers and those in the “know,” to develop the Stealth series of rods.

Designed for anglers the need the perfect tool to dead drift nymphs in small riffles and tiny pools – the often overlooked lies where trout feed.

The Stealth series provide anglers a rod with the accuracy, quick recovery and overall balance to repeatedly hit specific lies and bring fish to hand.

The Stealth series is offered in a four-piece, 10 foot, two weight and a 10-foot, six-inch, three weight. Stealth rod weigh, 2.8 and 3.2 ounces respectively are finished with machined, cut aluminum reel seats and black, single-foot snake guides.

All Stealth rods come with a rod sock and tube, and retail for $299.

 


Blue Ribbon Fly Rod Series

Introducing the all new Blue Ribbon Fly Rod Series. Designed for fly anglers that need a rod to cover a range of trout and warm water techniques from small flies, hopper-dropper rigs, indicators or big streamers for trout, bass and carp.

Very technical, magnum taper trout rods are not always the right choice for all anglers in real fishing situations. A rod that anglers can feel load and that can represent an efficient and accurate cast, (especially in small rivers, out of drift or along a lake shore) is what the Blue Ribbon provides.

The medium-fast action, Blue Ribbon series is offered in a two-weight, through seven-weight, in lengths of seven-foot, six-inches to 10-feet.

All Blue Ribbon rods come with a rod sock and tube and retail for $239-$259.

 

 

LK Legacy Fly Rod Series

The NEW LK Legacy series is designed and built as an evolution to the BVK series and a homage to fly fishing legend, Lefty Kreh.

Designed for the intermediate to advanced caster, the fast action LK Legacy utilizes a mix of new materials that dramatically reduces the weight while creating an aggressive blend of power and strength  – excelling in presentation and distance.

The LK Legacy single hand series is offered in a 3-weight, through 8-weight. in length of 8-feet to 10-feet. All rods come with a rod sock and rod rube and retail from $269-$299.

 

LK Legacy Two-Handed Fly Rod Series

Built off the same componentry as the LK Legacy single hand series. The fast action LK Legacy two-handed series is offered in a four-piece configuration in a 6-weight through 8-weight, in lengths 11-feet, six inches to 13 feet, six inches.

LK Legacy Two-Handed rods feature both a grain window and gram rating for easy line pairing.

All LK Legacy rods come with a rod sock and tube, and retail for $399-$409.

 

Once again, 2021 Fly Category products will be released in September. Until then, we’ve got excellent gear for you to browse, including items released for this year, such as the Axiom II-X and BVK SD reel. To see our entire catalog of fly fishing products, click here.

TFO Pro Staffer Capt. Jonathan Moss Launches The Captain’s Log

In case you missed one of our recent shares on social media, Florida based TFO Pro Staff angler Capt. Jonathan Moss has a new video series that just launched — The Captain’s Log with Waypoint TV. Check out the trailers for Episode 1 & 2  below.

The series follows host Capt. Jonathan Moss on an educational expedition through Florida and all its vast and beautiful estuaries. Throughout the series, we’ll follow Moss and his crew as they target both inshore and offshore species and learn a few tricks and tactics along the way.

Between guiding with clients and shooting for this series, the TFO Inshore is Jonathan’s Go-To for pretty much all the fishing he does, but when heading out for offshore and targeting big game, Moss switches over to the Seahunter series.

We decided to check in with Jonathan to get some more feedback on the Inshore – along with and what his crew and clients have been saying about these TFO rods.

 

TFO: Looks like you guys are using the Inshore a lot through The Captain’s Log! What do you like about the Inshore? 

JM: The TFO Inshore series rods are the perfect combination of light weight, all day fishability with enough backbone to go toe to toe with fish and win! In addition to the Inshore series’ performance is Its eye appeal! The TFO Inshore rods are aesthetically pleasing with high quality rod components and that catchy blue color! 

 

TFO: Do you have a Go-To size/model?

JM: The TFO Inshore series rods have a wide variety of rod lengths, powers and actions from which to choose! For shallow water sight fishing, my go to inshore rod is the 7ft medium power fast action rod, paired with a 3000 series reel and 10lb braided line. That setup will allow anglers to cast a soft plastic or live bait both a long distance and accurately. That combination is the key to sight casting leery fish on the flats. When the conversation turns to big tarpon, my go to TFO inshore rod is the 8ft Mag Heavy Fast Action rod paired with a 6000 series reel with 50lb braided line. A longer rod means further casting and the backbone of the mag heavy rod gives me confidence in battling the Silver King.

Lastly, I always have an extra 8ft mag heavy combo ready and rigged with a large bucktail jig for the unexpected visit from a Cobia! 

TFO: You’ve mentioned that The Captain’s Log will feature a few offshore episodes where you guys switch over to the Seahunter series. What do you like about The Seahunter compared to other offshore rods?

JM: The TFO Seahunter rods are very impressive. When fishing offshore wrecks and reefs, anglers need a rod and reel combo to keep fish from turning their heads back towards the bottom structure. Big fish such as varieties of Groupers, snappers and amberjacks are notorious for breaking lines on structure. The Seahunter series time and time again proves it’s worth as a part of my offshore arsenal by giving the angler the edge over these powerful reef dwellers! When fishing competitively or commercially as a full time guide, I need rods that will hold up to the test of big fish every day and the Seahunter Series rods from TFO gets the job done!

 

TFO: Do you have a Go-To size/model for this series as well?

JM: Rod selection is dependent on style of fishing. For vertical jigging, my go to is the 7ft 30 power rod paired with a 6000 series reel and 50lb braided line. For dropping live grunts over rock piles for groupers and snappers, my go to is the 6ft 6inch 40 power rod paired with an 8000 series reel and 60lb braided line. 

You just can’t beat these rods for offshore fishing! 

 

 

TFO: What has been the response from your clients and other people that have fished with you about TFO products (Inshore, Seahunter, others)?

JM: I am blessed to be able to make a living on the water! Part of my success has been quality gear. My rods and reels get abused every day and still look and feel like new. It’s a testament to the quality put in to each TFO rod on my boat. From fly rods to inshore to offshore, my clients only get the best that TFO offers. I hear it all the time, “where can I get a fishing rod just like this one?” My clients are quickly making the change to TFO because they recognize the performance, durability and quality of TFO rods. 

 

Keep up with Capt. Jonathan Moss and his crew on the latest episodes of The Captain’s Log here

To find out more information on Jonathan or to book a trip with his guiding service (GoCastaway), you can visit his website here.

 

Snook On The Fly 101, 201 & 301 – History, Tactics & More by Courtney Marie Martin

When TFO approached me recently about writing a piece on snook, I couldn’t have been more excited. This is a species I have targeted, fought for, and been passionate about my entire life. Everything about this species is absolutely fascinating to me; from their habitat, to their aggressive takes, unique spawning abilities, and their ability to survive in salt or freshwater. These fish are just as intriguing to me now, as they were more than 25 years ago, marking my first encounter with the species. If you have never had a chance to target these amazing creatures, you’ll want to add them to your list after this. However, if you have been as fortunate as myself, and had the joy of experiencing these beauties first hand, I hope you enjoy this read.

A brief back story on my roots; I’m originally from Bethune Beach, FL. If you’re not familiar with that area; It’s the southernmost point of habitable land, on a barrier island. There is no access to the mainland at this point, the rest of the island south is home to an incredible, and protected ecosystem, in the Canaveral National Seashore. The Atlantic side of the island contains one of the most righteous surf breaks on the Florida east coast, while located on the river side of the island, is the world-famous Mosquito Lagoon. Needless to say, I had a pretty well-rounded upbringing between these two bodies of water. My once small hometown changed drastically over the years, something I’m still emotional about to this day. This is a problem that is rampant in Florida, a problem that has many causes and contributing factors. With that change, eight years ago I made the decision to move to the west coast and start over on the Myakka River. This place sucked me in, I became obsessed with learning it, exploring it, and now protecting it. It became apparent within a short time, the same issues the lagoon is struggling with, they were starting to feel the effects of here as well. After 5 years of living here I left my career to focus on conservation, art, and fly fishing full-time. We’ll come back to that though, first we’re going to start this off with one of my favorite subjects; a little bit of History.

Age Before Beauty

Bare with me for a minute while I flood your brain with a little bit of Florida history.

The land we now call Florida began to form, via a combination of volcanic activity, and the deposit of marine sediments. The formation took place along northwest Africa roughly 530 million years ago. If you flash back to your middle school Geography days, you’ll remember a brief, but very important time in history, referred to as Pangea. This occurred due to Florida once being part of Gondwanaland, a super continent, that later divided into Africa and South America. Research shows that Florida then separated from Gondwanaland about 300 million years ago. The state eventually found itself wedged between Gondwanaland and North America, where they then combined, to form; Pangea. When Pangea began to separate, Florida remained behind as part of the continent of North America. Florida then began slipping slowly beneath the surface to become part of North America’s continental shelf. The landmass that is now Florida remained shallowly submerged beneath the ocean. Over time; coral, shellfish, and fish skeletons began accumulating. These mass deposits created a layer of limestone hundreds, and in some places thousands, of feet thick. As the Appalachian Mountains began to erode, sand and clay were then deposited all over Florida’s limestone layer. Much of the quartz sand covering the state today came from the rocks of that mountain chain. One of the many things that captivated me when I first came to this area, was the abundance of limestone formations I’ve located all over the river itself. Rock samples taken from the Myakka in the 1880s date the river to the Pliocene Epoch, 1.8-5.3 million years before the present, when Florida was mostly under water. However, according to University of Florida, Ocala limestone samples from the 1920s suggest that the Florida peninsula dates to the Eocene Epoch, thus dating her to be a whopping 25 to 36 million years ago. Deep grooves in these limestone formations began collecting rainfall in the form of rivers. Though there is a huge conflict in these differing data’s, I personally believe the latter of the two theories. The river and its region became home to; mastodons, mammoths, saber-toothed cats, and even megalodon. With research pointing to megs going extinct atleast 20-million years ago, it personally leads me to believe that the river is much older than some documents lead you to believe.

How Man Found the Myakka

  • 12,000 B.C. Humans from eastern Asia cross the newly, but briefly, dry Bering Strait on foot and enter North America, gathering around its deep springs for fresh water.
  • 10,200 B.C. First evidence of human habitation on the Myakka. Skeletal remains that were found, near Warm Mineral Springs, in 1959 were carbon-dated to roughly that time.
  • 1500 A.D. Florida aboriginals separate into four distinct tribes, including the Calusa tribe on the lower Gulf Coast. The Indians that called this land home believed the area to be sacred. On top of the abundant food source, they believed that storms seemed to disappear or go completely around it.
  • 1513 Juan Ponce de Leon’s search for gold treasure, combined with Florida’s legendary Fountain of Youth, led him to Charlotte Harbor and up the Peace and Myakka rivers. He is said, by many, to have found Warm Mineral Springs.
  • 1521 Ponce de Leon not only enslaved the Calusa and sold them off, but also brought an abundance of disease upon them. He ultimately died from complications caused by arrow wounds received in an altercation with the Calusa Indians. Unable to cohabitate with the Spaniards, the Calusa eventually left the area. Followed by the Spaniards departing, because they couldn’t survive without the Calusa. Over the years the surrounding land and water went through significant high water, drought, and weather events that pushed what little settlers and aboriginals were left, to the brink. Only the strong survived.

Wild and Scenic

Myakka River State Park opened for visitors in 1942. Within this now, 37,000-acre protected woodland, are hundreds of bird and animal species; Including 80 listed as endangered species. In 1985, Florida officially designated the Myakka for special protection, as the state’s first “Wild and Scenic River.” The entire river from the Upper lake, to Charlotte Harbor, is 66 miles. Nearly 8 months out of the year, especially during the winter months, the river is so shallow you can walk across it. Marshes, swamps, and sloughs also make up the 550-square mile Myakka Basin. This basin full of vast, spongy areas that hold water during the wet season, slowly releasing it to feed the river over the long months when there is no rain. This fragile body of water and ecosystem is why the Myakka needs our attention and preservation, now more than ever. Over the past 20 years, the Myakka has been laced with industrial waste, municipal sewage, agricultural runoff and untold gallons of gasoline, motor oil, and brake fluid. These pollutants come rushing across road surfaces in search of the region’s lowest point. This is all despite the passing of the Clean Water Act, in 1972. Which was placed in response to the unchecked dumping of pollution into our waterways. At the time, two-thirds of the country’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters had become unsafe for fishing or swimming. This included untreated sewage that was being dumped into open water. The most damaging additive since, ironically, has been water. An excess of water, pumped from underground wells to feed farms and mines, has saturated miles of the Myakka Basin, disturbing the river’s ancient cycle of long dry seasons and killing native vegetation. It has become an international laboratory for the study of river habitats, both how to keep them in good health and what to do when they are ailing, as rivers these days usually are. Water is traditionally low in the winter, making invasive plants and fish also a particular concern. Less water means more competition for food and oxygen. West Indian marsh grass is also crowding out native species of vegetation, eliminating food sources that the native fish are partial to. Those native fish, meanwhile, also have invasives of their own to contend with.

As you can tell, I’m extremely passionate about this place. When I was originally asked to write this article, I was sent a list of 10 talking points they’d like me to hit, so far, we’ve covered just one (insert laughter) …

Knowledge Is Power – History & Biology of Snook

Snook are thought to have originated in Central America, and due changes in the earth’s climate they migrated north to Florida. This migration goes back to a great warming trend after the Ice Age, that moved snook northward along the Mexico shoreline. They then followed the Gulf of Mexico to Cuba and Florida, splitting the state and running up along the east and west coasts. Florida proved to be the perfect environment, because snook are described as an estuarine-dependent fish species.

There are five species of snook that inhabit Florida waters; common snook, small scale fat snook, large scale fat snook, tarpon snook, and the swordspine snook.

Formerly known as excellent table fare, snook are making a huge comeback in our waters due to strict conservation efforts.

Within Florida’s diverse estuaries, juvenile snook are commonly found inhabiting; Coastal wetland ponds, island networks, and creeks. In their juvenile stages, snook show a tendency to call lower-salinity conditions home. Snook are also able to osmo-regulate, giving them the ability to adapt and thrive in both high/low salinity habitats. This is referred to as habitat plasticity, an evolutionary adaptation, expressed primarily through reversible physiological change. Which leads me to the most fascinating snook fact; Snook are a protandric hermaphroditic fish species. — Males can change to females as they age.

This transition takes place when snook are between 1-7 years of age or between 12-35 inches in length. This happens quickly, both male, and female sex cells are present in the gonads. During transition, female gonads mature directly from male gonads, after spawning. Thus, making it possible for snook, to spawn once as a male, and then again as a female within the same season.

Spawning

Spawning season typically runs the months of April-October, with peak spawn occurring during June-August. Near-shore waters containing higher salinity values is where their spawning traditionally occurs. Female snook may spawn every two days, during a new or full moon cycle, and release roughly 1.5 million eggs during each spawn. The high salinity in these locations is important to egg survival rates. Salinity provides buoyancy to the eggs carrying them to habitats more suited for survival, these eggs begin to hatch within 28hours. This phenomenon occurs on both the east and west coasts of Florida. Mouths of coastal rivers, major inlets, and the beaches of Gulf of Mexico are prime spawning locations.

Post spawn, the juvenile snook then migrate to the brackish waters of surrounding estuary environments. Once mature, they make their trek to the high salinity waters of the open ocean to join the breeding population. Snook are opportunistic ambush predators, whose feeding habits are attributed to their size and the size of their prey. Which leads us to the age-old question; “Does bigger bait equal bigger fish?”

In the snook world, the answer is, yes. As snook continue to grow they feed on larger and larger prey. Even though this behavior is rare, they even engage in cannibalism, predating upon their own. During the winter months, when adult and juvenile common snook are in close proximity to one another sharing habitat, is when this typically occurs. A feeding pattern referred to as intracohort cannibalism. Juvenile snook that find themselves in this setting may wind up becoming the largest available prey on the menu, thus proving to be nutritionally efficient to prey upon.

Come Fly with Me

Winding through the Old Florida wilderness, it’s the type of landscape that puts your vulnerability in check, a constant reminder of how small you really are in this world. The area I live in is fabled and locally labeled as snook haven, frankly, it is just that. The history, age of the land, and the species that call it home are all-encompassing pieces of knowledge to carry with you. The Myakka is a truly wild unforgiving landscape inhabited by gators, feral hogs, sharks, bobcats, bears, coyotes, panthers, venomous snakes, and large swarms of mosquitoes. When I began immersing myself into this environment, the closest thing I could compare it to would be the deepest parts of the Everglades. This is not the beach, these are not pristine sand flats, it’s not the harbor or the bay. This is as backcountry as it gets.

Do I wade fish here? Yes. Would I conscientiously recommend it to others? No.

Always research your surroundings before entering any body of water. Have a plan, triple check your gear, pay attention to your surroundings, and respect the environment. You are a guest.

Most of what we do in the backcountry is out of an aluminum jon-boat or skiff. Jon likes to even up the ante some days and throw me into a canoe. A very effective method for getting to these fish, you just have to remain extra cat-like with every movement you make.

Casting & Presentation

My number one piece of advice in the pursuit of fly fishing is; Practice, practice, practice!

Practice your cast, have a solid, confident, single and double haul going into these fish.

The techniques Jon and I both use for snook, are applicable to high or low water, and any water clarity. This is where practicing your cast is important, making that cast count no matter the conditions.

Water clarity changes daily here, some days its crystal clear, other days it can be muddy, and most days it resembles sweet tea. Some days, we encounter super low water conditions, with good water clarity. This tends to flush these fish out of their mangrove homes making sight fishing on the shore line possible. When these fish are out in the open, they can eat just as aggressively as they would in their protective structure, but they can see you just as well as you can see them.

The stealth factor and making a good cast first shot, are very important in this instance. However, one of my personal favorite fishing techniques is pitching up-under and into mangroves.

This is technical, this takes time, this takes practice. This is, however, extremely rewarding and efficient in high water, cloudy, or windy conditions. You can use a regular or weed-less flies for this technique. If you do happen to aim a little too high or snag a root, just take it easy pulling it off and it should come right out.

 

Fly Patterns & Retrieval Methods

Laser minnows, crab, shrimp, varying bait fish patterns and poppers; I’ve thrown all of these for snook and been successful. Now if you’re going to go for the gold on pitching mangroves, be ready to strip hard. The eat is usually very aggressive sometimes launching the fly airborne as if it were a top water plug. Sometimes they’ll eat as soon as it lands, others will ambush it and come out of nowhere, and then there’s the classic v-wake pushing out of the mangroves that then proceeds to finally crush the fly just inches from the boat with half your leader stripped into your rod. In that scenario I hold my breath and there’s usually a lot of praying involved; Praying the line shoots back out as pretty as it stripped through those guides.

These fish will instinctively try to run right back to where they came from, this is where you better stay alert and put the heat to them. 9 times out of 10, this is not a fish you’ll be attempting to get on the reel, most of the fight will be you gaining ground by stripping them in while keeping counter pressure on their head with the rod. The goal is to keep them out of the mangroves and get them to the boat fast. Like tarpon, snook are known for their acrobatics, be ready to fight them the same way when they go for an airborne head-shake.

Knots & Tippet

Much like a tarpon, snook’s mouths are very rough. If not hooked in the very corner of the mouth, or the top of their nose, they can ware through a leader section pretty quickly. I personally use 25-30lb fluoro as my shock tippet for these fish because of that reason. I don’t like break-offs and I really don’t like fish swimming around with gear stuck in their face. I also prefer a simple loop knot for connecting my fly to the tippet, this provides life like action during the retrieve. I’ve seen snook delicately mouth at flies and I’ve watched them smash flies. Every fish is different, retrieval techniques can vary by the fish. I’ve had fish out run my steady “strip, strip, strip” retrieve and end up on top of the fly, completely missing it. I’ve had fish follow-follow-follow, and then all of a sudden turn off, only for the next fish to inhale it. And then I’ve had encounters sight casting where I cast, I give it a couple pops trying to get their attention, they slowly come over, and I was just a millisecond too slow on beginning to work the fly. This results in a fish completely spooking and blowing out due to being able to get too good of a glance at your fly. It can be a delicate dance sometimes with these fish, but they will always keep you wanting more.

 

Don’t Get Discouraged!

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Persistence pays off with these fish, if you happen to totally miff the hook set, pick up your line and fire a cast right back up to the same spot. This technique is extremely effective, this is also why a fast and accurate single haul, is just as important as a clean double haul. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hooked a fish on the second or third try, just from goofing up the initial hook set. I actually had this happen last week, I was on the bow and had a solid follow out of the mangroves. The fish charged it, ended up being on top of my fly, and completely missed it. I fired a cast right back up to the big boil he left, he ate it again on the second strip, right in the middle of the pause. Resulting in a totally goofed hookset and Jon staring at me from the poling platform like, “Really…??” Stubborn I am, I fired up a third cast, this time Jon speaks up and says, “why would you do that?? That fish isn’t going to eat again, you need to be casting ahead.” As fate would have it, whammy! That fish ate it a third time, this time charging the boat, running under it, and breaking me off. This event lasted all of two seconds, but what a cool fish! We were all high-fives and laughs after that fish.

Fly Lines

Another important tool in your box – selecting the right fly line. Of the many innovations that Lee Wulff has contributed to fly fishing, the Bermuda Triangle Taper fly line is my go-to fly line for anything saltwater. I line all of my saltwater setups with the next weight size up. Which brings us to setups..

 

Fly Rods

A typical saltwater fishing day, 7/8/9wt rods are my go-to. My favorite setup to toss on a daily basis is an 8wt BVK or an 8/9wt Mangrove, 7wt class would also my Mangrove, and then there’s the 8 and 9wt Axiom II and Axiom II-X. These setups are laser focused and perfect for the saltwater pursuit of any species, especially snook!

But don’t forget that 10wt! This is an important tool, that will lead to regret if left behind. Your 38″+ upper class of snook will need A LOT of heat to keep them from running to structure. There are snook that Jon and I have both come across, where we just look back at each other and can’t believe what we’re seeing. I highly recommend a 10wt for those fish, with a large bait pattern, and a heavier tippet class.

The coolest thing about really big snook, they do not spook easily. They know exactly how big they are and their opportunistic feeding patterns revolve around that. If you can get it in front of them, they will most likely inhale it, but you have to bring the right tools to the fight! These fish are smart, they know their territory well, and will run to any structure they can to break you off quickly.

If by chance you are looking to wade fish, I don’t recommend that here. My best advice is to follow their patterns. If you scroll back up to the Knowledge Is Power section, hidden in there is everything you need to know about finding beach snook.

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture, is like a tree without roots.” -M.Garvey

Words and photos by TFO Ambassador Courtney Marie Martin. Sunset snook photo (Photo #2) taken by Eric Shaeffer.

Courtney is based out of Charlotte Harbor, Florida.  When not fishing for snook, tarpon and redfish with her partner Jon Lee (TFO Pro Staff) and spending time with her family, Courtney is a fantastic artist, where a lot of her art is inspired by her time on the water. You can find out more about Courtney here.

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Introducing Fly Fishing To Your Significant Other | 5 Tips From Chris Thompson

To many, flyfishing is a solitary pursuit. Long moments on a river spent with their own thoughts are broken by brief periods of communal meals, laughter, and lies. A buddy can be 50 yards downstream, just close enough to hear gleeful shouts at a good hook up, or shouted curses as one breaks off, yet not close enough to disturb the serene, babbling water that washes the rest of the world away. I have never been one of those people. I find the best moments in life are those shared with the ones we care for the most, and fishing is no different. I enjoy sharing the process with my friends, or fishing buddies.

Mind you, those friends must go through a rigorous screening process. Everyone can’t be allowed into that sacred space. Plenty of friends are great to share a finger of rum with, talk about the family, or even share deep thoughts and dreams. On the water with a fly rod is another matter entirely. That’s church. There, the wrong person can transform a small slice of paradise into just another bland place in this world. The right person brings an explosion of color into even the dullest day. They are few and far between.

I have several fishing buddies that have been part of my life for a very long time. One of them stands above the rest, and I made sure I married her. Who better to pass those selection criteria than the person you decide to be your partner in life? I know, a lot of you are already laughing (or shouting…or worse) and think I’m crazy. I admit, my marriage isn’t normal. Kellie was a guide when she was younger on the Little Red. She’d mastered trout fishing, landed salmon, and fought smallies before she’d ever met me. Sure, that made my screening a lot easier. She already shared my appetite for fly fishing. She also shared my passion for life, and we unquestionably share passion for one another.

Passion. Isn’t that what angling truly is? Isn’t that what we all really want in our partner? Your significant other may not understand fishing, but would probably like to know why you’re obsessed. Try letting them in. Invite them along, and like you, they may just discover the beautiful places our fish live, the skill required to hook and land them, our connection to nature as we try, and the healing the water provides. If you’re still reading, then you likely haven’t thrown your hands up at the thought of being on the water with your spouse (or girl/boyfriend). However, you’re probably unluckier than me and didn’t marry an angler. At this point, you’re receptive to the thought of inviting that special someone into your magical place, but just don’t know where to start. Kellie and I have been asked how we manage it before, and I have a few suggestions.

TIP #1: EASE INTO IT

You’re already in love with our sport. That means you’ve already accepted some things your loved one will have to ease into. That first trip can’t be ice in the guides, numb feet, Erie steelhead fishing. Fighting off mosquitos and No See Ums at sunset on your local pond may not be the best initiation either. Sure, I get it. The fish are rising, but trust me, this isn’t the way. Instead, choose a serene and beautiful location you know is likely to produce a few fish. Keep the trip at a few hours to a half day trip. Let your partner be introduced to the best of what we do. If they like it, then they’ll see the other stuff soon enough!

TIP #2: THIS IS NOT A NORMAL DAY

Waking up at 3:30am, fumbling through making a pot of coffee while half asleep, stumbling to the truck, and then stopping for a gas station gut buster and the day’s provision of Slim Jims might be the norm…for you. You’re anxious, excited, and hopeful about what the day might bring. No kid has ever been more excited on Christmas morning. However, throwing the non-initiated into the pre-dawn ritual isn’t going to work out well for either of you. Plan a day that includes time to get ready, some comfort items, no rushing, and remember you’re trying to show someone else a good time. I’m sure you’re in tune with what that will take, and if not, you now have the chance to learn.

TIP #3: IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU

This may be the most important thing to remember. Today’s trip, or maybe even the next dozen, aren’t about you. They’re about her (or him), and ultimately the two of you together. If you’re hoping this will be the start of a genuine lifetime fishing partner situation, then you have to be the guide. I’m not just talking about being the fishing guide. You are the trip planner, the logistician, the tour director, and the guide on the water. You’re hoping your most special someone may just change their life to join you on a regular basis. Show them a good time! Help them rig. Coach them through their time on the water. Have a shore lunch. Be the net guy. Take a break when they get tired, and end the day when they’re ready. Then go relive the experience over some drinks and great food.

TIP#4: PATIENCE AND HUMILITY

Some of you have been waving a long rod around for decades. Your partner is just starting. They may never be at your level, nor do they need to be. Sooner or later they’ll reach a level of competency allowing you to graduate from Ghillie, but until then your role is as much mentor as fishing buddy. You’ll need to teach knots, rigging, fly selection, tactics, and everything under the sun. Sharing your knowledge can be a reward in and of itself. You’ll also need to know when you just don’t have the aptitude or capability to be helpful. For example, soon your partner will begin their voyage casting, and you my friend are not a suitable captain. Lefty Kreh frequently said he could teach anyone to cast except his wife. Unless you’d like to forego some fishing trips for couples counseling, you’d do well to heed his advice. Hire a casting instructor, or ask a friend, but unless you are among the rarest of breeds, admit you’re not equipped for this task.

TIP #5: HAVE THE RIGHT GEAR 

Everything about this process can be exciting and fulfilling, but this part is just plain fun! Along this journey you get to help outfit your partner. In the beginning, they’ll need their own rod. Sure one of your spares may do the trick, but it’s always nice to have something of your own. You don’t have to go overboard. I find the TFO Bug Launcher in 4/5 or 5/6 are exceptional trout and panfish rods, and their finish and smaller handles are especially appealing to ladies. The NXT Black Label is also a great entry level rod that has a smooth action, and is available in 5 or 8 weights. Both rod series are affordable, available in full outfits, are sure to provide years of use, and are backed by a lifetime warranty. As your partner develops a feel for what they like you get an instant gift list, and actually are required to visit fly shops. You’ll want waders, chest packs, stripping baskets, rods, reels…and maybe a second mortgage!

From Michigan, to the Carolina Coast, to Alaska, and many points between, I’ve shared my love of flyfishing with the love of my life. I introduced Kellie to saltwater flyfishing, and she’s shared her expertise on trout streams. We’ve fished in waders, on kayaks, and from boats. We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve cursed like sailors. What we don’t have are arguments about going fishing, because it’s an integral part of our marriage. It’s part of who we are. It can also be part of who you are. You may have to chart a different course, but after all, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”

All the best.

Words and Photos by Chris Thompson. Chris is a TFO Ambassador based out of coastal North Carolina. He is a former veteran of the USMC who does a lot of work with the non-profit organization Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing, Inc., and spends more time helping veterans get introduced (and obsessed) with fly fishing.

Spring Crappie Tactics with Chris Meitzner



As the ice begins to recede on the lakes in the Midwest we start thinking about our first opportunity to dip the boats back in the water. Crappies, who have been wintering in the basin (deep holes) begin to make their migration towards the shallow spawning grounds as the waters start to warm. Crappies are a riot to fish in the springtime and can be caught in a variety of locations, with many different presentations. I’ll be touching base on the How To’s, and the Do’s and Don’ts of Early Spring Crappie fishing. Let’s start at the beginning with Pre Spawn.

Pre Spawn

Crappies are very responsive to water temperature changes which play a crucial role when the first signs of spring come. Shallow water starts to warm into the low to mid 40’s which signals to the crappies they need to increase their foot intake for spawning. The shallow, warmer water is the first to see the start of the new weed growth which attracts the entire food chain, from the invertebrates/bug hatches which bring in smaller fish (minnows) and which are fed on by the crappies, bass, northern etc. As the days start to warm and cool these fish can make their way back and forth from varying depths called a staging area. Staging areas are generally just outside of main spawning grounds (3-12’) and can vary in depth by a few feet.

Temperature swings from early morning to afternoon can rise and lower water temps upwards of 5-6 degrees some days. The sunrise bite might not start in until a little later in the morning when the shallow water starts to warm up a few more degrees. Sunny days can hold true to some of the best crappie fishing. When you put a few of those sunny days together in a row it can sure warm up the water and turn the bite on fast!

Spawn

As the waters temps start to stay consistently around the 55+ degree mark you will start to find crappies getting ready for the spawn. Crappies have a very wide range of temperatures that they have been found spawning in. They have been found dumping eggs at temps upwards of 65 degrees. When the temps finally get into the spawning mark I will slide my search shallower and start in the reeds/cattails from 1-5’. At this time if the water your fishing is clear enough you will actually be able to see fish guarding the beds and can target these fish relatively easy by picking them directly off with a well-placed slip bobber. When these fish end up in the shallows they can be very easy to target in their large numbers. With that being said we as anglers have a duty to keep ourselves in check and think about the conservation as a whole. For me, that means only keeping what I plan to eat and releasing the larger fish to help stimulate healthy genetics for years to come.

Location – Where To Find Them

Crappies will show up in a variety of locations based on different bodies of water, but there are ways to breakdown that water to make it easier for them to be located. Generally, as the sun goes across the sky throughout the day the north sides of the lakes and bays will soak up a majority of the sunlight thus warming up quicker. Bays that are cut off from the main lake can be a great place to start your search as the main lake will have lower temps due to the amount of water that needs to warm up. To help narrow the search down further keep an eye out for bays with old weed growth with a soft/murky bottom. If you can find green cabbage at all there will most likely be fish in the vicinity. New growth starting can also be a key to finding the fish in the back bays. New growth gives off oxygen and attracts numerous other species of life which all get predated on. Crappies are also attracted to areas with bulrushes/cattails, fallen trees, lily pad roots, beaver huts and canals/creeks leading to other lakes. Boat dock areas are great because they are generally shallow and warm quickly. They also contain a lot of structure for them to hide/stalk prey as it goes by. They move around from day to day so each trip out may take some searching to initially find some fish but the rewards can be great!

Tactics & Equipment – How To Fish For Them

Choosing a good rod for the species you’re targeting is always key for fishing. I use a Temple Fork Outfitters 7’ Ultralight Trout/Panfish rod. The length of the rod is great for making long casts which are extremely important when you’re in shallow water as these fish can spook out of an area very easily. One of the best ways to target crappies is from under a float (bobber). I like to use a Northland Tackle Light bite bobber either in the Pencil or Oval. A simple slip bobber is very versatile for being able to pinpoint exactly where you want to place the bait whether its right on the edge of bulrush/pencil weeds or between lily pad roots where they can take cover and ambush prey. Bobbers can be very affective on fish that are either schooled up or spread out on an area. They can be paired with a variety of lures including and not limited to a simple hook/crappie minnow, hair jig, tube jig, plastics, tungsten, or working a fly slowly with a small sinker for a subtle approach. I will either let the bobber soak or slowly retrieve it back to the boat jigging it as I go, but be careful not to over work the bait. One of the easiest ways to search an area for crappies is by using a small jig anywhere from a 1/100th to a 1/16th ounce and tip it with a plastic. I work plastics for a couple different reasons. It keeps the bait on the hook so you know you are not going to lose your bait after a failed hookset and you can cast it farther without having to worry about throwing your bait off.

When searching with your trolling motor it is key to keep a low profile and use creep mode to stealthily invade the shallows (2-10’). Slowly make your way in and if you do end up spooking fish quickly hit your waypoint marker on your electronics and return to that area a little while later after they have returned. Make sure to stay back and take advantage of a long cast. As soon as that first bobber starts going under I hit my spot lock and we post up until we decide our next move.

Jig size, Color, and Presentation can be very critical to catching crappies, and other days it doesn’t matter what you throw at them! My favorite go to colors for jigs are generally white or pink and I like to pair them with my favorite crappie plastics from Juice Bait Co known as the Rubber Chicken. Small tube jigs can work well when other methods are not producing and give the bait a different look in the water. Another way to catch early season crappies is to troll or cast small crankbaits such as the Salmo Hornet at slow speeds giving subtle pulls and pauses to help generate more bites. Trolling can be utilized when the fish are anywhere from 4’+ but is not as feasible in super shallow water. When I troll for crappies I will normally start out a little slower, anywhere from .5mph – .8mph and then slowly increase my speed as I catch fish. When you find your top out speed that they stop biting at back down a couple notches and you can find the sweet spot for how fast they want it!

 

Photos and Words by Chris Meitzner

Chris is a TFO Pro Staff Ambassador based out of Brainerd, Minnesota. He runs a guiding service called Tight Lines Guide Service. When not targeting crappie, he targets trophy walleye, northern pike and bass in Northern Minnesota. You find out more about Chris here.

Casting Early Season Walleye Techniques with TFO Ambassador Burnie Haney

Walleye season in New York State opens on May 2nd; so we decided to have upstate New York TFO Ambassador and walleye expert Burnie Haney go over some tips and techniques to help you make the most of your walleye fishing season.

Burnie discusses what works best for him for Eastern Basin Lake Ontario walleye, but a lot of these skills can be applied towards walleye fishing tactics anywhere.

Casting Early Season Walleye

Depending of your approach and exactly where you are looking for walleye, it can be either feast or famine. However, one thing is for certain once you get dialed in it can also be non-stop rod action. Undoubtedly trolling will reign supreme in the larger bodies of water like the great lakes,, but if you have the patience and temperament for it, casting is a very productive method as well and for the purposes of this writing I’m going to focus on casting techniques with artificial lures only, the gear used, how I rig it and what areas to look for.

I make no guarantees these methods will produce 100% of the time, but I can say if you apply what you’re about to read I feel confident you too will put a few more walleye in the net this season, so let’s start off with gear.

Rods & Reels

For my spinning rod applications, I use the TFO Professional Walleye WS 704-1. This is a one-piece 7’ rod (fast action- medium power) rated for 6-12 lb. line and 1/4 – 3/4 oz. lures. With this rod, I can present jigs, jerkbaits, squarebills and finesse swimbaits. I usually run 8 lb. braid on this rod and depending on water conditions and sunlight penetration I’ll sometimes use a fluorocarbon leader of 36-48”. I use a size 20 or 30 spinning reel with this rod.

For my casting rod applications, I use the TFO Professional Walleye WC 764-1. This is a one piece 7’6” rod (fast action-medium power) rated for 6-12 lb. line and 1/4 -3/4 oz lures. With this rod I can present, jigs, squarebills & diving crank baits, swimbaits, in-line spinner rigs and finesse umbrella rigs. I fish 8-15 lb. braid on this rod and again I will use a fluorocarbon leader if conditions dictate. I usually have a Daiwa Tatula reel 6.3:1 on this rod, but sometimes I will drop down to a 5.4:1 depending on the exact presentation.

Line

When most folks talk about walleye fishing in gin clear water, you will oftentimes hear how you must use light line (4-6 lb. test), small hooks, leaches, worms, minnows, on a jig or a slip bobber. You will not hear me argue about that, but remember, we’re talking about artificial lures only and in most cases that’s horizontal moving baits. When fishing moving baits for these big water walleyes, I seem to do best fishing with braided line. I think in part that is due to the fact I’m making super long casts and braided line provides me the ability to get a hook point into the fish quickly as I feel the strike, while monofilament line impedes my ability for good hooksets at long distances. The other nice thing about braided line is it allows you to put more line on the spool which translates into longer smoother casts.

Just a tip – When you are spooling up with braid be sure to put about 10-12 yards of mono on the spool first because this helps prevent the braid from slipping on the spool. Also try to use mono that is smaller in diameter; it does two things for you: 1) Helps the braid lay flat on the spool; and 2) Prevents it from biting down into the grooves of mono below when under pressure.

Leader

Cortland’s Top Secret tippet is hard to beat. I like this stuff because it offers a line that’s approximately 1/2 the diameter of most other fluorocarbons out there. As an example, the diameter of their 12.9 lb. tippet is equal to 6 lb. mono. It’s a bit pricey, but then again you get what you pay for.

 

Spinning Rod Presentations

My first choice for early season walleye is either a jerkbait or a jig tipped with some Berkley Gulp or a Keitech Swimbait. The jerkbait is usually a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 or 100 in perch or baitfish colors and the jigs routinely replicate the same forage base, with the addition of a football head jig dressed with Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impact (to mimic a goby).

Jerkbaits are routinely fished in the 5 – 10 ft. zone adjacent to weed edges along shoals and rock rubble shorelines with the standard cast, crank it down three or four quick turns, let it sit (pause) for 5-10 seconds, reel up the slack line, give it one or two light taps, pause and repeat that cadence all the way back to the boat. If I notice walleye following the jerkbait back to the boat but not striking, then a follow up cast with the swimbait on a 1/8 or 3/16 oz jighead on a steady retrieve usually gets that fish to bite.

Another great technique for scrubbing up reluctant walleye that are holding tight on a rock rubble bottom is the football head jig. Here in Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario the round goby has become a staple in darn near every fish’s diet and walleye are no exception. To imitate this tasty nugget, I use a 3/8 or 1/2 oz. football head with a Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impact (Green Pumpkin or Tennessee Shad). I am looking in just a tad deeper in that 15 – 30 ft zone, still near or adjacent to rocky shoals and a hard bottom is a must. Cast it out, let it fall all the way to the bottom, reel up the slack line and move the bait by sweeping the rod across your front from 9 to 3 or vice versa or by employing a slow steady crank of the reel. The key element to this presentation is maintaining good bottom contact throughout the retrieve.

The bite’s not subtle and you will know without a doubt when they take it, but you must keep your rod in the proper position to set the hook. I’ve enjoyed my best success dragging the football head by avoiding vertical rod movements and employing the aforementioned horizontal rod movements which keeps me in good position to quickly snap the rod tip for a solid hook set at any point throughout the retrieve.

Casting Rod Presentations

I typically employ presentations more akin to power fishing for bass. I use squarebills & medium diving crankbaits, Keitech 3.3 or 3.8 Fat Swing Impact Swimbaits on 1/4 – 1/2 oz. jig heads depending on depth which is usually in the 5 -20 ft zone. The other techniques that serve me well are the umbrella rig and the weight forward in-line spinner both presentations can be fished from 7 – 20 ft with equal success and allow you to cover massive amounts of water as your search for the active biters.

I will fish all these presentations on the same line, 15 lb. Cortland Masterbraid tied direct to the lure except for the single swimbaits. For the single swimbaits I use a 36-48” section of the Top Secret tippet material connecting the braid to fluorocarbon with Lefty Kreh knot and I’m fishing those on a slower speed reel 5.5:1 when fishing in 10- 20 ft. The slower speed reel helps keep the swimbait in the slightly deeper strike zone.

The squarebills are exceptional and drawing and trigging strikes from walleye that are feeding in the 5 – 8 ft zone, again we’re targeting shoals on the main lake or looking at the mouths of creeks off of the mainlake with scattered weeds and rock rubble or rock humps nearby. The other lure that is a great search bait in the 7- 20 ft. zone is a weight forward in-line spinner, like an Erie Deerie or South Bend’s Walleye Wonder. Traditional walleye angling has you dressing them with a night crawler or minnow, but I’ve found using rubber worms works very well and my two top choices are the Zoom Trick Worm in 4” or 6” (green pumpkin or green pumpkin with a chartreuse tail) and the Gambler Floating Worm (bubblegum yellow). Why bubblegum/yellow because they hit it and they hit it hard.

Crazy as that sounds these rubber worms work great. Think of it this way, once you cast out and begin the retrieve the night crawler stretch out behind the spinner, well the rubber worms look just the same on the retrieve. Other than scent the only way a walleye can tell the difference is to bite it and that is exactly what happens. It is a lot easier to rig and I get four to five fish on each rubber worm before it is so torn up that I must replace it.

With the squarebill, the single swimbait and the weight forward in-line spinner I get the most bites employing a steady retrieve. If I find the fish aren’t holding over or near the rock rubble on the shoals, but they are positioned more toward slightly deeper open water adjacent to the shoals then I employ a countdown method with the weight forward in-line spinner or I use the umbrella rig or the medium diving crankbaits, again a steady retrieve works best for me.

For the open water umbrella rig presentation, I am dressing the rig with Keitech 3.3 Fat Swing Impacts on 1/8 & 1/4 oz. jigheads. Simply casting out, counting it down to the desired depth and employing a steady retrieve all the way back to the boat. I try to keep the presentation at the depth I saw the fish on the graph or just slightly higher. This presentation replicates a school of bait fish and while some anglers have mixed emotions about using a multi-hook presentation like this, I can say the umbrella rig is a great choice and often times overlooked presentation for walleye that are feeding on open water baitfish.

If you think what you just read sounds a bit like power fishing for bass, then you are right. I would also ask you to keep an open mind, because these big water walleyes are predators. They are not as shy or skittish as their inland lake or small river cousins, these fish roam in good numbers and when they move up on or near the shoals to feed, they do so with abandon.

The current New York State record walleye is 18 lb. 02 oz. and these Eastern Basin fish average between 4.5 – 8 lbs. with a solid 10 lb. (+) fish showing up on most daily trips.

Good luck out there, enjoy the fishery, take a few for the table and do not forget to free the fighter because it might just be that next record catch for some lucky angler.

Photos by Oliver Sutro

About The Author

Burnie Haney is a TFO Ambassador from upstate New York. He sits on the New York State Jefferson County Sports Fishery Advisory Board, serves as the Jefferson County Sportsman Representative to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation Region 6 Fish and Wildlife Management Board, he holds two International Game Fish Association (IGFA) line class records and one IGFA All Tackle Length record and he’s set three fly fishing line class records with the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin. You can find out more about Burnie here.